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Field Bee
Jul 18, 2010
Reaction score
Panteg, Gwent
Hive Type
Number of Hives
7 + 3 nuc
Felicity speaks to beekeepers and experts across Wales to hear their theories as to why bees are becoming scarcer.
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(Ignore the "And & But" starts to sentences.)

" Plan Bee

Pretty much everyone agrees that bees are vital to preserving the world as we know it. Farmers agree, politicians agree, environmentalists agree.

Bees are one of nature’s key pollinating insects – that means they’re crucial for ensuring the survival of a wide variety of flowers and crops.

It’s been estimated that pollinators are worth at least £430 million per year to UK agriculture.

But for the last thirty years pollinators have been in severe decline – between 1985 and 2005 the honey bee population fell by nearly a quarter.

Many decades ago, when I did my A levels, I was lucky enough to study a Latin poem called The Georgics written by one of the greatest poets who ever put pen to paper. His name is Virgil.

The poem, like all great poems, is rich in possible interpretations, but its final book is a tribute to the heroism and ingenuity of honey bees.

In fact, Virgil is really telling us that we have a lot to learn from bees.

Virgil’s bees live their short lives on an epic scale, they work hard for no reward, they sacrifice themselves for the future of their community and they help keep the world turning.

Virgil says they have mighty hearts beating in their tiny breasts. When I read Virgil’s poem I fell in love with bees.

But fast forward two millennia and Virgil’s warrior bees are losing their fight.

Everyone I spoke to for this programme agreed that the loss of pollinators would do great damage not just to the environment but to our own interests.

Yet for thirty years we have watched populations decline.

The Welsh Minister for natural resources and food, Alun Davies, told me that trend was “terrifying”.

That’s why the Welsh Government is consulting on a draft pollinator plan to try to stop the decline.

I’ve asked lots of bee-keepers what they think is happening.

Newport’s Dave Crewe, who generously shared his honey crop with me, blames the weather. He lost two hives over the winter.

BBC Wales weather man Derek Brockway is sympathetic, he tells me we’ve had an exceptionally grim 18 months or so.

Others talk of habitat loss - hedgerows ripped out , grass verges mown so ruthlessly even the friendly dandelion can’t thrive let alone more exotic wild flowers.

Francis Gellatly, a bee inspector, explained they’re battling varroa – a mite that interferes with bees’ immune systems.

And some complain that new bee-keepers can’t find a willing corner of a garden or allotment or piece of council land to set up their hives.

Then there’s the pesticide argument. The European Commission has recently imposed a two year ban on a group called neonicitinoids.

James Byrne of the Wildlife Trust Wales told me they erode bees’ extraordinary powers of navigation.

But the British government disputes that and Pembrokeshire arable farmer, Perkin Evans, warned the ban could reduce his crop yield by ten to twenty per cent.

And as if the poor creatures aren’t in enough trouble, I also found out that bee rustlers are at large in Wales.

Hives are being stolen in the dead of night.

Elaine Spence from Cardiff is a victim.

She loves her bees. She nursed them through a terrible summer and a hard winter. And then in March a hive was taken.

There’s money in it, she tells me, up to £200 a colony. But it’s risky. In such a cold spring the bees may have died. Another colony lost to make someone an easy buck.

Virgil was right. Humans could learn a thing or two from bees."

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